Robert Mugabe

"Mugabe" redirects here. For other uses, see Mugabe (disambiguation).

Robert Mugabe
President of Zimbabwe
Assumed office
22 December 1987
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (2009–2013)
Vice President Joshua Nkomo (1987–1999)
Simon Muzenda (1987–2003)
Joseph Msika (1999–2009)
Joice Mujuru (2004–2014)
John Nkomo (2009–2013)
Emmerson Mnangagwa (2013-)
Phelekezela Mphoko (2014-)
Preceded by Canaan Banana
Prime Minister of Zimbabwe
In office
18 April 1980  22 December 1987
President Canaan Banana
Deputy Simon Muzenda
Preceded by Abel Muzorewa (Zimbabwe Rhodesia)
Succeeded by Morgan Tsvangirai (2009)
13th Chairperson of the African Union
In office
30 January 2015  30 January 2016
Preceded by Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
Succeeded by Idriss Déby
Secretary-General of the Non-Aligned Movement
In office
6 September 1986  7 September 1989
Preceded by Zail Singh
Succeeded by Janez Drnovšek
Personal details
Born Robert Gabriel Mugabe
(1924-02-21) 21 February 1924
Kutama, Southern Rhodesia
(now Zimbabwe)
Political party National Democratic Party (1960–1961)
Zimbabwe African People's Union (1961–1963)
Zimbabwe African National Union (1963–1987)
Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (1987–present)
Spouse(s) Sally Hayfron (1961–1992; her death)
Grace Marufu (1996–present)
Children Nhamodzenyika (deceased)
Robert Peter
Bellarmine Chatunga
Education Kutama College
Alma mater University of Fort Hare
University of South Africa
University of London
Religion Roman Catholicism

Robert Gabriel Mugabe (/mˈɡɑːb/; born 21 February 1924) is the current President of Zimbabwe, serving since 22 December 1987. As one of the leaders of the rebel groups in opposition to white minority rule, he was elected Prime Minister in 1980, serving in that office as head of the government, until 1987, when he became the country's first executive head of state. He has led the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF) since 1975. As of August 2016, he is the world's oldest and one of the longest serving Head of State. His 36-year rule has been characterised by gross human rights violations, resulting in him joining the world list of dictators.

Mugabe rose to prominence in the 1960s as the leader of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) during the conflict against the conservative white-minority government of Rhodesia. Mugabe was a political prisoner in Rhodesia for more than 10 years between 1964 and 1974. Upon release Mugabe, along with Edgar Tekere, immediately left Rhodesia with the assistance of Rekayi Tangwena in 1975 to launch the fight during the Rhodesian Bush War from bases in Mozambique. At the end of the war in 1979, Mugabe emerged as a hero in the minds of many Africans. He won the general elections of 1980 after calling for reconciliation between the former belligerents, including white Zimbabweans and rival political parties, and thereby became Prime Minister on Zimbabwe's independence in April 1980.

Soon after independence Mugabe set about creating a ZANU–PF-run one-party state, establishing a North Korean-trained security force, the Fifth Brigade, in August 1981 to deal with internal dissidents.[1] Mugabe attacked former allies ZAPU in which the Fifth Brigade crushed an armed rebellion by fighters loyal to his rival Joshua Nkomo, leader of the minority Ndebele tribe, in the province of Matabeleland. Between 1982 and 1985 at least 20,000 people died in ethnic cleansing and were buried in mass graves.[2][3] Mugabe consolidated his power in December 1987, when he was declared executive president by parliament, combining the roles of head of state, head of government, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, with powers to dissolve parliament and declare martial law.

In 2008, Mugabe suffered a narrow defeat in the first round of a presidential election but he subsequently won the run-off election in a landslide after his opponent Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew; Mugabe then entered a power-sharing deal with Tsvangirai as well as Arthur Mutambara of the MDC-T and MDC-M opposition party. In 2013, the Election Commission said Mugabe won his seventh term as President, defeating Tsvangirai with 61 percent of the vote in a disputed election in which there were numerous accounts of electoral fraud.[4][5] Mugabe was elected as the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) on 30 January 2015.[6] He had previously led the AU's predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity in 1997–98.

Early life

Childhood: 1924–42

Robert Gabriel Mugabe was born near the Kutama Jesuit Mission in the Zvimba District northwest of Salisbury, in Southern Rhodesia, to a Malawian father, Gabriel Matibili, and a Shona mother, Bona, a daughter Chief Gutu of the Karanga tribe and Gumbo mutupo (totem) Masvingo Province. Both parents were Roman Catholic. He was the third of six children. He had two older brothers, Michael (1919–34) and Raphael. Both his older brothers died when he was young, leaving Robert and his younger brother, Donato (1926–2007), and two younger sisters – Sabina and Bridgette.[7] His father, a carpenter,[8] abandoned the family in 1934 after Michael died, in search of work in Bulawayo.[9]

St. Francis Xavier's Kutama College, and Fort Hare: 1942–54

Mugabe was raised as a Roman Catholic, studying in Marist Brothers and Jesuit schools, including the exclusive Kutama College, headed by an Irish priest, Father Jerome O'Hea, who took him under his wing. Through his youth, Mugabe was never socially popular nor physically active and spent most of his time with the priests or his mother when he was not reading in the school's libraries. He was described as never playing with other children but enjoying his own company.[8] According to his brother Donato, "his only friends were his books".[10]

He qualified as a teacher, but left to study at Fort Hare in South Africa graduating in 1951, while meeting contemporaries such as Julius Nyerere, Herbert Chitepo, Robert Sobukwe and Kenneth Kaunda. He then studied at Salisbury (1953), Gwelo (1954), and Tanzania (1955–57). Originally graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Fort Hare in 1951, Mugabe subsequently earned six further degrees through distance learning including a Bachelor of Administration and Bachelor of Education from the University of South Africa and a Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Laws, Master of Science, and Master of Laws, all from the University of London External Programme.[11] The two Law degrees were earned while he was in prison, the Master of Science degree earned during his premiership of Zimbabwe.[12]

Teaching in Zambia and Ghana: 1955–60

After graduating, Mugabe lectured at Chalimbana Teacher Training College in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) from 1955–58, thereafter he taught at Apowa Secondary School at Takoradi, in the Western region of Ghana after completing his local certification at Achimota School (1958–60), where he met Sally Hayfron, whom he married in April 1961.[13] During his stay in Ghana, he was influenced and inspired by Ghana's then Prime Minister, Kwame Nkrumah. In addition, Mugabe and some of his Zimbabwe African National Union party cadres received instruction at the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute, then at Winneba in southern Ghana.[14][15]

Revolutionary activity

Early political career: 1960–63

Main article: History of Zimbabwe

Mugabe returned to Southern Rhodesia and joined the National Democratic Party (NDP) in 1960.[16] After the administration of Prime Minister Edgar Whitehead banned the NDP in September 1961, it almost immediately reformed as the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU), led by Joshua Nkomo. Mugabe left ZAPU in 1963 to join the breakaway Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), which had been formed by the Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole, Edgar Tekere, Edson Zvobgo, Enos Nkala and lawyer Herbert Chitepo.

ZANU was influenced by the Africanist ideas of the Pan Africanist Congress in South Africa[17] and influenced by Maoism while ZAPU was an ally of the African National Congress and was a supporter of a more orthodox pro-Soviet line on national liberation. Similar divisions can also be seen in the independence movement in Angola between the MPLA and UNITA. It would have been easy for the party to split along tribal lines between the Ndebele and Mugabe's own Shona tribe, but cross-tribal representation was maintained by his partners. ZANU leader Sithole nominated Robert Mugabe as his Secretary General.

During early 1964 tension between the two rival nationalist parties boiled over into violent conflict within the black townships. "Many people were killed as rival former colleagues [within the nationalist movement] turned against each other," write David Martin and Phyllis Johnson; "Homes and stores were burned and looted."[18] The government reacted by arresting political agitators for criminal offences[19] and jailing Nkomo in Gonakudzingwa Restriction Camp, a remote detention unit in the south-east of the country.[20] After members of ZANU murdered a farmer, Petrus Oberholzer, on 4 July 1964, ZANU and ZAPU were officially banned on 26 August 1964; their leaders, including Mugabe, were shortly arrested and imprisoned indefinitely.[21] ZAPU figures joined Nkomo at Gonakudzingwa while the leaders of ZANU were briefly held in turn at two similar units near Gwelo (Gweru since 1982), first Wha Wha, then, from 15 June 1965, Sikombela,[22] before being transferred permanently to Salisbury Prison on 8 November 1965.[23] Mugabe earned numerous further degrees by correspondence courses while detained, including three from the University of London: degrees in Law and Economics respectively and a Bachelor of Administration. When his three-year-old son Nhamodzenyika died from malaria in Ghana in late 1966, Mugabe petitioned the prison governor to leave on parole to attend the funeral in Accra, the Ghanaian capital. The Prime Minister Ian Smith intervened personally to prevent this.[24]

Ascendancy to ZANU leadership: 1964–75

In 1974, while still incarcerated, Mugabe was elected—with the powerful influence of Edgar Tekere—to take over the reins of ZANU after a no-confidence vote was passed on Ndabaningi Sithole[25]—Mugabe himself abstained from voting. His time in prison burnished his reputation and helped his cause.[8] Following a South African détente initiative, Mugabe was released from prison in December 1974 along with other Nationalist leaders[21] and having initially travelled to Zambia, where he was ignored by Kenneth Kaunda, returned then left with Edgar Tekere in April 1975 for Mozambique assisted by a Dominican nun, where he was later placed in temporary protective custody by President Samora Machel, the suspicion was duly quelled by Commander Solomon Mujuru, and Mugabe & Tekere were able to provide the leadership to kickstart the armed struggle after the tragic death of Chairman Herbert Chitepo. According to Eddie Cross who participated in interviews of the leadership at that time to determine their views on the "longer term future", Mugabe's political viewpoint was that "a new 'progressive' society could not be constructed on the foundations of the past [and] that they would have to destroy most of what had been built up after 1900 before a new society, based on subsistence and peasant values could be constructed".[26][27][28]

Mugabe unilaterally assumed control of ZANU after the death of Herbert Chitepo on 18 March 1975. Later that year, after squabbling with Ndabaningi Sithole, Mugabe formed a militant ZANU faction, leaving Sithole to lead the moderate Zanu (Ndonga) party. Many opposition leaders mysteriously died during this time (including one who allegedly died in a car crash, although the car was rumoured to have been riddled with bullet holes at the scene of the accident).[8] Additionally, an opposing newspaper's printing press was bombed and its journalists tortured.[8]

Lancaster House Agreement: 1979–1979

Prime Minister Mugabe departs Andrews Air Force Base after a state visit to the United States in 1983

Under pressure from Henry Kissinger, South African Prime Minister B. J. Vorster persuaded his Rhodesian counterpart Ian Smith to accept in principle that white minority rule could not continue indefinitely. On 3 March 1978 Bishop Abel Muzorewa, Ndabaningi Sithole and other moderate leaders signed an agreement at the Governor's Lodge in Salisbury, which paved the way for an interim power-sharing government, in preparation for elections. The elections were won by the United African National Council under Bishop Abel Muzorewa, but international recognition did not follow and sanctions were not lifted. The two 'Patriotic Front' groups under Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo refused to participate and continued the war.

The incoming government did accept an invitation to talks at Lancaster House in September 1979. A ceasefire was negotiated for the talks, which were attended by Smith, Mugabe, Nkomo, Zvobgo and others. Eventually the parties to the talks agreed on a new constitution for a new Republic of Zimbabwe with elections in February 1980. The Lancaster Agreement saw Mugabe make two important and contentious concessions. First, he allowed 20 seats to be reserved for whites in the new Parliament, and second, he agreed to a ten-year moratorium on constitutional amendments. His return to Zimbabwe in December 1979, following the completion of the Lancaster House Agreement, was greeted with enormous supportive crowds.

Prime Minister of Zimbabwe: 1980–1987

Prime Minister Mugabe in 1982

After a campaign marked by intimidation from all sides, mistrust from security forces and reports of full ballot boxes found on the road, the Shona majority was decisive in electing Mugabe to head the first government as prime minister on 4 March 1980. ZANU won 57 out of 80 Common Roll seats in the new parliament, with the 20 white seats all going to the Rhodesian Front.

Mugabe, whose political support came from his Shona-speaking homeland in the north, attempted to build Zimbabwe on a basis of an uneasy coalition with his ZAPU rivals, whose support came from the Ndebele-speaking south, and with the white minority. Mugabe sought to incorporate ZAPU into his ZANU led government and ZAPU's military wing into the army. ZAPU's leader, Joshua Nkomo, was given a series of cabinet positions in Mugabe's government. However, Mugabe was torn between this objective and pressures to meet the expectations of his own ZANU followers for a faster pace of social change.

In 1983, Mugabe fired Nkomo from his cabinet, triggering bitter fighting between ZAPU supporters in the Ndebele-speaking region of the country and the ruling ZANU. Mugabe accused the Ndebele tribe of plotting to overthrow him after sacking Nkomo. Between 1982 and 1985, the military crushed armed resistance from Ndebele groups in the provinces of Matabeleland and the Midlands, leaving Mugabe's rule secure. Mugabe has been accused by the BBC's Panorama programme of committing mass murder during this period of his rule, after the show investigated claims made by political activist Gary Jones that Mugabe had been instrumental in removing him and his family from his farmland.[29] A peace accord was negotiated in 1987.[30] ZAPU merged into the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) on 22 December 1988.[31] Mugabe brought Nkomo into the government once again as a vice-president.


Main article: Gukurahundi

Mugabe planned to reorient the people of Matabeleland and Midlands, after he failed to win any seats there. Mugabe had been friends with Julius Nyerere,[32] who had convinced him that the most effective way to progress post-colonial Africa was to embark on one-party politics. To him, democracy was a detraction that colonialists would use to destabilise newly independent countries.[32]

In 1982, Mugabe pretended to discover old Russian trucks and weapons, held in ZAPU farms for disposal.[33] The weapons were known to the government and were beyond use after having been used in the Angola war. He used this as an excuse to instigate a genocide in Matabeleland, resulting in over 20,000 deaths among the civilian population.[32] The fact that there was no evidence for a planned ZAPU-led conflict was accepted by Zimbabwean courts, which acquitted Dumiso Dabengwa and General Lookout Masuku.[33] Supporting the claim of prior-planning for crushing the people of Matabeleland and Midlands for standing in the way of his one-party state ambition is the fact that his North Korean army training agreement was signed in June 1980,[34] long before any arms were allegedly found. Additionally, the 5th Brigade was never training in military tactics,[33] such as defending a territory or mounting an offensive; they were training in civilian population military tactics. Mugabe himself noted that it was deployed to 'reorient the people'[35] not to fight any dissidents.

According to a report by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe's Fifth Brigade killed between 10,000 and 20,000 people.[32] The report also notes that about 2000 of these people were killed within the first week of deployment.

President of Zimbabwe: 1987–2008

In 1987, the position of Prime Minister was abolished and Mugabe assumed the new office of executive President of Zimbabwe gaining additional powers in the process. He was re-elected in 1990 and 1996, and in 2002 amid claims of widespread vote-rigging and intimidation. Mugabe's term of office expired at the end of March 2008, but he was re-elected later in 2008 and again 2013 in another elections marred by election fraud and intimidation.

Mugabe has been the Chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe since Parliament passed the University of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill in November 1990 and is also Chancellor of all state Universities including Bindura University, National University of Science and Technology, Midlands State University, Chinhoyi University of Science and Technology, Lupane State University, harare Institute of Technology, Great Zimbabwe University and Gwanda State University,[36]


Main article: Economy of Zimbabwe

During the 1980s Mugabe's policies were largely socialist in orientation. In 1980 and 1981 the Zimbabwean economy showed strong growth of the GDP with 10.6% and 12.5%. From 1982–89 economic growth averaged just 2.7% (1980–89 average 4.47%). The white minority government maintained (with economic sanctions) from 1966–72 a 6.7% average growth rate and overall from 1966 till 1979 a 3.8% average growth rate.[37]

Unsuccessful market reform attempts were started in the 1990s and the economy stagnated in this time. Since 2000, GDP has declined by roughly 40% in part due to land reform and hyperinflation.

In November 2010, the IMF described the Zimbabwean economy as "completing its second year of buoyant economic growth".[38][39]

Social programs

According to a 1995 World Bank report, after independence, "Zimbabwe gave priority to human resource investments and support for smallholder agriculture," and as a result, "smallholder agriculture expanded rapidly during the first half of the 1980s and social indicators improved quickly." From 1980 to 1990 infant mortality decreased from 86 to 49 per 1000 live births, under five mortality was reduced from 128 to 58 per 1000 live births, and immunisation increased from 25% to 80% of the population. Also, "child malnutrition fell from 22% to 12% and life expectancy increased from 56 to 64. By 1990, Zimbabwe had a lower infant mortality rate, higher adult literacy and higher school enrolment rate than average for developing countries".[40]

In 1991, the government of Zimbabwe, short on hard currency and under international pressure, embarked on an austerity program. The World Bank's 1995 report explained that such reforms were required because Zimbabwe was unable to absorb into its labour market the many graduates from its impressive education system and that it needed to attract additional foreign investments. The reforms, however, undermined the livelihoods of Zimbabwe's poor majority; the report noted "large segments of the population, including most smallholder farmers and small scale enterprises, find themselves in a vulnerable position with limited capacity to respond to evolving market opportunities. This is due to their limited access to natural, technical and financial resources, to the contraction of many public services for smallholder agriculture, and to their still nascent links with larger scale enterprises."

Moreover, these people were forced to live on marginal lands as Zimbabwe's best lands were reserved for mainly white landlords growing cash crops for export, a sector of the economy favoured by the IMF's plan. For the poor on the communal lands, "existing levels of production in these areas are now threatened by the environmental fragility of the natural resource base and the unsustainability of existing farming practices".[40] The International Monetary Fund later suspended aid, saying reforms were "not on track."

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), life expectancy at birth for Zimbabwean men has since become 37 years and is 34 years for women, the lowest such figures for any nation.[41] The World Bank's 1995 report predicted this decline in life expectancy from its 1990 height of 64 years when, commenting on health care system cuts mandated by the IMF structural adjustment programme, it stated that "The decline in resources is creating strains and threatening the sustainability of health sector achievements".[40]

While Zimbabwe has suffered in many other measures under Mugabe, as a former schoolteacher he has been well known for his commitment to education.[8] As of 2008, Zimbabwe had a literacy rate of 90%, the highest in Africa.[42] However, Catholic Archbishop of Zimbabwe Pius Ncube decried the educational situation in the country, saying, among other scathing indictments of Mugabe, "We had the best education in Africa and now our schools are closing".[43]

Prior to its suspension in 2009, the Zimbabwe dollar had suffered from the second-highest hyperinflation rate of any currency in modern times.[44]

Accusations of racism

A number of people have accused Mugabe of having a racist attitude towards white people. John Sentamu, the Uganda-born Archbishop of York in the United Kingdom, calls Mugabe "the worst kind of racist dictator," for having "targeted the whites for their apparent riches".[45] Almost thirty years after ending white-minority rule in Zimbabwe, Mugabe accuses the United Kingdom and the United States of promoting white imperialism and regularly accuses opposition figures to his government of being allies of white imperialism.[46][47]

The United Kingdom once condemned Mugabe's authoritarian policies and alleged racist attitudes as being comparable to those of German Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. A response came during the state funeral for a Zimbabwean Cabinet minister in March 2003. Mugabe telling journalists "I am still the Hitler of the time, [...] This Hitler has only one objective, justice for his own people, sovereignty for his people, recognition of the independence of his people, and their right to their resources. If that is Hitler, then let me be a Hitler tenfold. Ten times, that is what we stand for."[48]

Views on homosexuality

Mugabe has been uncompromising in his opposition to LGBT rights in Zimbabwe. In September 1995, Zimbabwe's parliament introduced legislation banning homosexual acts.[49] In 1997, a court found Canaan Banana, Mugabe's predecessor and the first President of Zimbabwe, guilty of 11 counts of sodomy and indecent assault.[50] He has previously referred to lesbians and gays as being "worse than dogs and pigs".[51]

In 2015, Mugabe was condemned by several United Nations agencies for his remarks on homosexuality.[52]

Second Congo War

Mugabe was criticised for agreeing to Zimbabwe's participation in the Second Congo War in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, this at time when the Zimbabwean economy was struggling. Zimbabwe was responding to a call by the Southern African Development Community to help the struggling regime in Kinshasa. The Democratic Republic of the Congo had been invaded by Rwanda and Uganda, both of which claimed that their civilians, and regional stability, were under constant threat of attack by Rwandan Hutu militiamen based in the Congo.[53]

However, the Congolese government, as well as international commentators, charged that the motive for the invasion was to grab the rich mineral resources of eastern Congo.[54][55] The war raised accusations of corruption, with officials alleged to be plundering the Congo's mineral reserves. Mugabe's defence minister Moven Mahachi said, "Instead of our army in the DRC burdening the treasury for more resources, which are not available, it embarks on viable projects for the sake of generating the necessary revenue".[56]

Land reform

When Zimbabwe gained independence, 46.5% of the country's arable land was owned by around 6,000 commercial farmers,[57] and white farmers, who made up less than 1% of the population, owned 70% of the best farming land.[58] Mugabe accepted a "willing buyer, willing seller" plan as part of the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979, among other concessions to the white minority.[59] As part of this agreement, land redistribution was blocked for a period of 10 years.[60]

In 1997, the new British government, led by Tony Blair, unilaterally stopped funding the "willing buyer, willing seller" land reform programme. Britain's ruling Labour Party felt no obligation to continue paying white farmers compensation, or in minister Clare Short's words, "I should make it clear that we do not accept that Britain has a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe. We are a new Government from diverse backgrounds, without links to former colonial interests. My own origins are Irish and as you know we were colonised not colonisers".[61]

According to Clare Short's advisor Soni Rajan, in the book Dinner With Mugabe by Heidi Holland, the New Labour government wanted to get rid of Robert Mugabe as early as 1997, even before the Fast Track land reform program: “It was absolutely clear from the attitude of her [Clare Short’s] staff towards my recommendations that Labour's strategy was to accelerate Mugabe's unpopularity by failing to provide him with funding for land redistribution. They thought if they didn't give him the money for land reform, his people in the rural areas would start to turn against him. That was their position; they wanted him out and they were going to do whatever they could to hasten his demise.”[62]

From 12 to 13 February 2000, a referendum on constitutional amendments was held. The proposed amendments would have limited future presidents to two terms, but as it was not retroactive, Mugabe could have stood for another two terms. It also would have made his government and military officials immune from prosecution for any illegal acts committed while in office. In addition, it allowed the government to confiscate white-owned land for redistribution to black farmers without compensation. The motion failed with 55% of participants against the referendum.[63]

The referendum had a 20% turnout fuelled by an effective SMS campaign. Mugabe declared that he would "abide by the will of the people". The vote was a surprise to ZANU-PF, and an embarrassment before parliamentary elections due in mid-April. Almost immediately, self-styled "war veterans", led by Chenjerai 'Hitler' Hunzvi, began invading white-owned farms. Those who did not leave voluntarily were often tortured and sometimes killed. One was forced to drink diesel fuel as a form of torture.[64] On 6 April 2000, Parliament pushed through an amendment, taken word for word from the draft constitution that was rejected by voters, allowing the seizure of white-owned farmlands without due reimbursement or payment.[65]

On 8 December 2003, in protest against a further 18 months of suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations (thereby cutting foreign aid to Zimbabwe), Mugabe withdrew his country from the Commonwealth. Mugabe informed the leaders of Jamaica, Nigeria and South Africa of his decision when they telephoned him to discuss the situation. Zimbabwe's government said the President did not accept the Commonwealth's position, and was leaving the group.[66]

The United Nations provoked anger when its Food and Agriculture Organisation invited Mugabe to speak at a celebration of its 60th anniversary in Rome. Critics of the move argued that since Mugabe could not feed his own people without the support of the UN, he was an inappropriate speaker for the group, which has a mission statement of "helping to build a world without hunger".[67]

In 2005, Mugabe ordered a raid conducted on what the government termed "illegal shelters" in Harare, resulting in 10,000 urban poor being left homeless from "Operation Murambatsvina (English: Operation Drive Out the Rubbish)." The authorities themselves had moved the poor inhabitants to the area in 1992, telling them not to build permanent homes and that their new homes were temporary, leading the inhabitants to build their own temporary shelters out of cardboard and wood.[68] Since the inhabitants of the shantytowns overwhelmingly supported the Movement for Democratic Change opposition party in the previous election, many alleged that the mass bulldozing was politically motivated.[68] The UK's Daily Telegraph noted that Mugabe's "latest palace," in the style of a pagoda, was located a mile from the destroyed shelters.[68] The UN released a report stating that the actions of Mugabe resulted in the loss of home or livelihood for more than 700,000 Zimbabweans and negatively affected 2.4 million more.[67]

As of September 2006, Mugabe's family owns three farms: "Highfield Estate" in Norton, 45 km west of Harare, "Iron Mask Estate" in Mazowe, about 40 km from Harare, and "Foyle Farm" in Mazowe, formerly owned by Ian Webster and adjacent to Iron Mask Farm and renamed "Gushungo Farm" after Mugabe's own clan name.[69] These farms were seized forcibly from their previous owners.[70]

Mugabe blames the food shortages on drought and the cumulative effect of sanctions imposed against the country.

In November 2010 the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University in England released a comprehensive study on the effects of Zimbabwean land reform. The study suggested that the consequences were mixed but that previous claims that the reform was a failure, that its primary recipients were political "cronies" or that it caused rural collapse were unfounded. One of the study's authors, Professor Ian Scoones, stated: "What comes through from our research is the complexity, the differences in experience, almost farm by farm; there is no single, simple story of the Zimbabwe land reform as sometimes assumed by press reports, political commentators, or indeed much academic study".[71] In 2015 he announced a proposal to return some land to white farmers.[72]

Indigenisation and Black Economic Empowerment

On 9 March 2008, Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe signed the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Bill into law. After many years of lobbying for Black Economic Empowerment similar to the Affirmative action initiative undertaken in South Africa by President Nelson Mandela under the advise of Nthato Motlana, Cyril Ramaphosa & others. Prominent Indigenous Businessmen such as Ben Mucheche, Paul Tangi Mhova Mkondo, John Mapondera, James Makamba, Enoch Kamushinda, Saviour Kasukuwere & Peter Pamire with strong backing from Lobby Groups as IBDC (founded by Strive Masiyiwa), IBWO (founded by Jane Mutasa) & AAG (founded by Phillip Chiyangwa).[73] The Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Bill was passed through parliament in September 2007 by President Mugabe's party, Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), Emmerson Mnangagwa was in charge of representing the Bill. In spite of resistance by the opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).[74] President Robert Mugabe said his drive to give black Zimbabweans greater control of the southern African economy will continue "unabated" following his "resounding" endorsement in the 31 July elections.[75] "The indigenisation and empowerment drive will continue unabated in order to ensure that indigenous Zimbabweans enjoy a larger share of the country's resources."[76] Mugabe said that giving black Zimbabweans control of the business sector is the next step and said the election result had given him a "resounding mandate" to do so. "We will do everything in our power to ensure our objective of total indigenisation, empowerment, development and employment is realised," he told a public rally to mark the annual Defence Forces Day. He said the policy was the "final phase of the liberation struggle" and "final phase of total independence".[77]


In April 1979, 64% of the black citizens of the newly renamed Zimbabwe-Rhodesia lined up at the polls to vote in the first democratic election in the history of that southern African nation. Two-thirds of them supported Abel Muzorewa, a bishop in the United Methodist Church. He was the first black prime minister of a country only 4% white. Muzorewa's victory put an end to the 14-year political odyssey of outgoing prime minister Ian Smith, who had infamously announced in 1976, "I don't believe in majority rule ever in Rhodesia... not in 1,000 years. I repeat that I believe in blacks and whites working together. If one day it is white and the next day it is black, I believe we have failed and it will be a disaster for Rhodesia."[78]

Less than a year after Muzorewa's victory, however, in February 1980, another election was held in Zimbabwe. This time, Robert Mugabe, who had fought a seven-year guerilla war against Rhodesia's white-led government, won 64% of the vote, after a campaign marked by widespread intimidation, outright violence, and Mugabe's threat to continue the civil war if he lost. Mugabe became prime minister and was toasted by the international community and media as a new sort of African leader.

Mugabe has continued to win elections, although frequently these have been criticised by outsiders for violating various electoral procedures.

Mugabe faced Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in presidential elections in March 2002.[79] Mugabe defeated Tsvangirai by 56.2% to 41.9% amid violence and the prevention of large numbers of citizens in urban areas from voting. The conduct of the elections was widely viewed internationally as having been manipulated.[80][81] Many groups, such as the United Kingdom, the European Union, the United States, and Tsvangirai's party, assert that the result was rigged.[79]

Mugabe's ZANU-PF party won the 2005 parliamentary elections with an increased majority. The elections were said by (again) South African observers to "reflect the free will of the people of Zimbabwe", despite accusations of widespread fraud from the MDC.[82]

On 6 February 2007, Mugabe orchestrated a cabinet reshuffle, ousting ministers including five-year veteran finance minister Herbert Murerwa.[83]

On 11 March 2007, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was arrested and beaten following a prayer meeting in the Harare suburb of Highfields. Another member of the Movement for Democratic Change was killed while other protesters were injured.[84] Mugabe claimed that "Tsvangirai deserved his beating-up by police because he was not allowed to attend a banned rally" on 30 March 2007.[85]

General elections (GNU) 2008–2013

Mugabe launched his election campaign on his birthday in Beitbridge, a small town on the border with South Africa on 23 February 2008 by denouncing both the opposition MDC and Simba Makoni's candidacy. He was quoted in the state media as saying: "Dr Makoni lacked majority support while Mr Tsvangirai was in the presidential race simply to please his Western backers in exchange for money".[86] These are the charges he has used in the past to describe the leader of the opposition.

In the week Dr. Makoni launched his campaign for the presidency, he accused Mugabe of buying votes from the electorate. This was a few hours after Dumiso Dabengwa had come out and endorsed Dr. Makoni's candidature.[87]

First-round defeat and the campaign of violence

The presidential elections were conducted on 29 March 2008, together with the parliamentary elections. On 2 April 2008, the Zimbabwe Election Commission confirmed that Mugabe and his party, known as ZANU-PF, had lost control of Parliament to the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change. This was confirmed when the results were released.[88] Both the opposition and his party challenged the results in some constituencies.[89] According to unofficial polling, Zanu-PF took 94 seats, and the main opposition party MDC took 96 seats.[90] On 3 April 2008 Zimbabwean government forces began cracking down on the main opposition party and arrested at least two foreign journalists, who were covering the disputed presidential election, including a correspondent for the New York Times.[91][92]

On 30 March 2008, Mugabe convened a meeting with his top security officials to discuss his defeat in the elections. According to the Washington Post, he was prepared to concede, but was advised by Zimbabwe's military chief Gen. Constantine Chiwenga to remain in the race, with the senior military officers "supervising a military-style campaign against the opposition".[93] The first phase of the plan started a week later, involving the building of 2,000 party compounds across Zimbabwe, to serve as bases for the party militias.[93] On an 8 April 2008 meeting, the military plan was given the code name of "CIBD", which stood for: "Coercion. Intimidation. Beating. Displacement."[93]

The official results for the presidential elections would be delayed for five weeks. When British Prime Minister Gordon Brown attempted to intervene into the election controversy, Mugabe dismissed him as "a little tiny dot on this planet".[94]

When the official results for the presidential elections were finally published by the Zimbabwe election commission on 2 May 2008, they showed that Mugabe had lost in the first round, getting 1,079,730 votes (43.2%) against 1,195,562 (47.9%) collected by Mr. Tsvangirai. Therefore, no candidate secured the final win in the first round, and a presidential run-off will be needed. The opposition called the results "scandalous daylight robbery", claiming an outright victory in the first round with 50.3% of the votes.[95] However, closer analysis of the opposition MDC's own figures, as published on the party's website at time, showed they had secured 49.1% of the vote and not the claimed requisite of more than 50% to avoid a run-off election.[96]

Mugabe's run-off campaign was managed by Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former security chief of the conflict of Gukurahundi.[93] The Washington Post asserts that the campaign of violence was bringing results to the ruling party, by crushing the opposition party MDC and coercion of its supporters. By 20 June 2008, the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights had "recorded 85 deaths in political violence since the first round of voting".[97] News organisations report that, by the date of the second-round election, more than 80 opposition supporters had been killed, hundreds more were missing, in addition to thousands injured, and hundreds of thousands driven from their homes.[93]

Zimbabwean officials alleged that activists of the MDC, disguised as ZANU-PF members, had perpetrated violence against the population, mimicking the tactics of the Selous Scouts during the Bush war. They alleged that there was a "predominance" of Selous Scouts in the MDC.[98]

In addition, at least 100 officials and polling officers of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission were arrested after the first round election.[99][100]

Tsvangirai initially agreed to a presidential run-off with Robert Mugabe,[101] but later withdrew (on 22 June 2008), citing violence targeted at his campaign. He complained that the elections were pointless, as the outcome would be determined by Mugabe himself.[102]

The outcome of the run-off election

The run-off election was held on 27 June 2008, and Zimbabwe's Electoral Commission released the results two days later. The official results showed that Mugabe had managed to double his votes since the first round, to 2,150,269 votes (85.5%), while his opponent Tsvangirai obtained only 233,000 (9.3%).[103] However Tsvangirai had pulled out previously because of widespread violence from the ZANU-PF's forces. The violence includes beating, rape and others. Many voted because if they did not they could face violence against them. Although witnesses and election monitors had reported a low turnout in many areas of the country,[104] the official tally showed that the total vote had increased, from 2,497,265 votes in the first round[105] to 2,514,750 votes in the second round.[103]

Two legal opinions commissioned by the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC)[106] declared the run-off election illegal because it occurred outside the 21-day period within which it had to take place under Zimbabwean law. Under item 3(1)(b) of the Second Schedule of the Electoral Act, if no second election is held within 21 days of the first election, the candidate with the highest number of votes in the first election has been duly elected as President and must be declared as such. According to the figures released by Zimbabwe's Electoral Commission, that would mean that Morgan Tsvangirai is the de jure President.

Mugabe's inauguration to his sixth presidential term of office was a hastily arranged ceremony, convened barely an hour after the electoral commission declared his victory on 29 June 2008.[107] None of his fellow African heads of state were present at his inauguration; there were only family members, ministers, and security chiefs in the guests' tent.[108]

The Zimbabwean military, and not President Robert Mugabe, is now running the troubled country, in the opinion of a South Africa-based NGO called the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum (ZSF) – 10 July 2008.[109]

The United Kingdom announced a policy of seizing foreign assets belonging to Mugabe. Mugabe replied that he has no foreign assets to seize. HSBC proceeded to seize the bank account of Sam Mugabe, a 23-year-old British subject of Zimbabwean origin, no relation to Robert Mugabe. The HSBC bank which carried out the seizure of her account subsequently apologised.[110][111][112]

On 20 December, despite increased criticism and pressure to resign, Mugabe averred during ZANU-PF's tenth annual conference in Bindura, some eighty kilometres north of Harare, that he would brook no such thing.[113]

Presidential election 2013

Mugabe was re-elected in 2013 with 61 percent of the vote. U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, having followed the elections in Zimbabwe closely, commended the Zimbabwean people for a broadly peaceful election day and for exercising their democratic rights. He stressed, at the same time, that the concerns which have been raised about certain aspects of the electoral process should be pursued through established channels. These concerns should then be considered transparently and fairly. The most important thing was that the will of the people of Zimbabwe be respected.[114] Independent poll monitors reported widespread irregularities, and the state-appointed election commission reported that many voters were either turned away or received assistance from election officials.[115] All in all SADC[116] & the African Continent's main body African Union endorsed the Zimbabwean general elections which had an AU Observer team on the ground led by President General Olusegun Obasanjo.[117]

Criticism and opposition

Example of foreign criticism: a demonstration against Mugabe's regime next to the Zimbabwe embassy in London (mid-2006).

Since 1998 Mugabe's policies have increasingly elicited domestic and international denunciation. They have been denounced as racist against Zimbabwe's white minority.[118][119][120] Mugabe has described his critics as "born again colonialists",[121][122] and both he and his supporters claim that Zimbabwe's problems are the legacy of imperialism,[123] aggravated by Western economic meddling. According to The Herald, a Zimbabwean newspaper owned by the government, the UK is pursuing a policy of regime change.[110]

Due to Mugabe's inaction against allegations, several scandals have come to light through the years. Zimbabwe is considered one of the most corrupt nations in the world, ranking 163rd out of 176 countries on the latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. The organisation also estimated that Zimbabwean officials received nearly $2 billion through corruption in 2012, rivalling the economically much larger South Africa and Nigeria.[124]

Mugabe's critics accuse him of conducting a "reign of terror"[68][125] and being an "extremely poor role model" for the continent, saying his "transgressions are unpardonable".[126] In solidarity with the April 2007 general strike called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), British Trades Union Congress general secretary Brendan Barber said of Mugabe's regime: "Zimbabwe's people are suffering from Mugabe's appalling economic mismanagement, corruption, and brutal repression. They are standing up for their rights, and we must stand with them." Lela Kogbara, Chair of ACTSA (Action for Southern Africa) similarly has said: "As with every oppressive regime women and workers are left bearing the brunt. Please join us as we stand in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe in their struggle for peace, justice and freedom".[127]

Robert Guest, the Africa editor for The Economist for seven years, argues that Mugabe is to blame for Zimbabwe's economic freefall. "In 1980, the average annual income in Zimbabwe was US$950, and a Zimbabwean dollar was worth more than an American one. By 2003, the average income was less than US$400, and the Zimbabwean economy was in freefall.[128] "Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe for nearly three decades and has led it, in that time, from impressive success to the most dramatic peacetime collapse of any country since Weimar Germany".[8]

Between 1999 and 2000, Mugabe's popularity was at a low with an economic recession and war with the Congo. In an effort to regain popularity with the black majority, he devised a plan to seize property of the wealthy white minority and transfer it back to black ownership in a process he described as 're-indigenization'. Mugabe reportedly took little action against use of violence in this process. This process did virtually nothing to benefit the average Zimbabwean, as most of the land was parcelled to Mugabe's friends and allies.[129]

In recent years, Western governments have condemned Mugabe's government. On 9 March 2003, US President George W. Bush approved measures for economic sanctions to be levelled against Mugabe and other high-ranking Zimbabwe politicians, freezing their assets and barring Americans from engaging in any transactions or dealings with them. Justifying the move, Bush's spokesman stated that the President and Congress believe that "the situation in Zimbabwe endangers the southern African region and threatens to undermine efforts to foster good governance and respect for the rule of law throughout the continent." The bill was known as the Zimbabwe Democracy Act.[130]

In reaction to human rights violations in Zimbabwe, students at universities from which Mugabe has honorary doctorates have sought to get the degrees revoked. So far, the University of Edinburgh and University of Massachusetts Amherst have stripped Mugabe of his honorary degree[131] after two years of campaigning from Edinburgh University Students' Association. In addition, the student body at Michigan State University (ASMSU) unanimously passed a resolution calling for this. The issue is now being considered by the university.[132]

Mugabe's office forbade the screening of the 2005 movie The Interpreter – which had as an antagonist a South African dictator widely thought to be modelled after Mugabe – claiming that it was propaganda by the CIA and fearing that it could incite hostility towards him.[133] In 2007, Parade magazine ranked Mugabe the 7th worst dictator in the world.[134] The same magazine ranked him worst dictator of the year 2009 two years later.[135]

With some of the lowest ranked transparency of all nations, Zimbabwe has attracted a widespread loss of confidence in its economy. As a result, conditions have diminished. When the time came for his sixth re-election campaign in 2008, the opposition party, MDC, nominated Morgan Tsvangirai as their candidate. The resulting run-off between the two candidates was the first time in 30 years Mugabe's power was seriously threatened internally. When it became apparent the race would be close, Mugabe suspended the rules and declared himself president once again.[136]

An official from Chatham House suggested that Mugabe was unlikely to leave Zimbabwe, but that if he were to leave, he might go to Malaysia, where some believe that he has "stashed much of his wealth".[137]

In response to Mugabe's critics, former Zambian leader Kenneth Kaunda was quoted blaming not Mugabe for Zimbabwe's troubles, but successive British governments.[138] He wrote in June 2007 that "leaders in the West say Robert Mugabe is a demon, that he has destroyed Zimbabwe and he must be got rid of– but this demonising is made by people who may not understand what Robert Gabriel Mugabe and his fellow freedom fighters went through".[139] Similarly, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade responded to his critics by saying that Zimbabwe's problems are the legacy of colonialism.[140]

Mugabe's supporters characterise him as a true Pan-Africanist and a dedicated anti-imperialist who stands strong against forces of imperialism in Africa. According to Mugabe's supporters, the Western media are not objectively reporting on Zimbabwe, but are peddling falsehoods. Mugabe's supporters accuse certain western governments of trying to eradicate pan-Africanism to deny real independence to African countries by imposing client regimes.[141]

The Times charged that on 12 June 2008, Mugabe's Militia murdered Dadirai Chipiro, the wife of Mugabe's political opponent, Patson Chipiro, by burning her alive with a petrol bomb after severing her hands and feet.[142]

On December 9, 2014 it was reported that Mugabe fired his vice-president, Joice Mujuru, along with several other officials. They were accused of plotting to overthrow Mugabe's regime, although they deny this allegation. Mugabe, at 90 and in deteriorating health, must consider a successor to his regime. It is speculated that firing Mujuru would give way to either his wife, Grace Mugabe, rising to power, or Emmerson Mnangagwa to take over when he retires or dies.[143]


After the start of the Fast Track land reform program in 2000, the US Senate put a credit freeze on the government of Zimbabwe, through the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001. Signed into law on 21 December 2001, ZDERA froze the Zimbabwean government's lines of credit at international financial institutions through Section 4C, titled Multilateral Financing Restriction. This credit freeze forced the Zimbabwean government to operate on a cash only basis, and caused high inflation in 2001 to turn into hyperinflation in 2002 and beyond. It caused the first export deficit, the first big drop in tobacco exports, and a greater fall of the Zimbabwe dollar against the US dollar than in the previous 6 years, in the year 2002.


(c) MULTILATERAL FINANCING RESTRICTION- ... the Secretary of the Treasury shall instruct the United States executive director to each international financial institution to oppose and vote against--

(1) any extension by the respective institution of any loan, credit, or guarantee to the Government of Zimbabwe; or

(2) any cancellation or reduction of indebtedness owed by the Government of Zimbabwe to the United States or any international financial institution.[144]

ZDERA was sponsored by Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), and co-sponsored by then senators Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Russ Feingold and Jesse Helms. In 2010, Russ Feingold introduced a new law that would continue the credit freeze on Zimbabwe, called the Zimbabwe Transition to Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2010 (ZTDERA). Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) introduced the Zimbabwe Sanctions Repeal Act of 2010, specifically to repeal ZDERA through Section 2 article 26.[145]

Robert Mugabe visiting Vatican City in 2008, while in Rome for a UN Food Conference—a permitted exception from his travel ban.

After observers from the European Union were barred from examining Zimbabwe's 2002 elections, the EU imposed sanctions on Mugabe and 94 members of his government, banning them from travelling to participating countries and freezing any assets held there. The United States instituted similar restrictions. The EU's ban has a few loopholes, resulting in Mugabe taking a few trips into Europe despite the ban. Mugabe is permitted to travel to UN events within European and American borders.[146][147]

On 8 April 2005, Mugabe attended the funeral of Pope John Paul II, a move which could be seen as defiance of a European Union travel ban that does not, however, apply to Vatican City. He was granted a transit visa by the Italian authorities, as they are obliged to under the Concordat. However, the Catholic hierarchy in Zimbabwe have been very vocal against his rule and the senior Catholic cleric, Archbishop Pius Ncube is a major critic, even calling for Western governments to help in his overthrow.[148][149]

Robert Mugabe and senior members of the Harare government are not allowed to travel to the United States because it is the position of the US government that he has worked to undermine democracy in Zimbabwe and has restricted freedom of the press.[150] Despite strained political relations, the United States remains a leading provider of humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe, providing roughly US$900 million in humanitarian assistance from 2002–2008, mostly food aid.[151]

Because United Nations events are exempt from the travel bans, Mugabe attended the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) summit in Rome. African leaders threatened to boycott the event if Mugabe were blacklisted; when he was not, the United Kingdom refused to send a representative. British and Australian officials denounced the presence of Mugabe.[152][153]

Health and succession

Because Mugabe is Africa's oldest state leader currently in office, speculation has built over the years related to his succession.

In June 2005, a report that Mugabe had entered a hospital for tests on his heart fuelled rumours that he had died of a heart attack.[154] These reports were later dismissed by a Mugabe spokesman.

Joyce Mujuru, was elevated to vice-president of ZANU-PF during the December 2004 party congress and considerably younger than Joseph Msika, the other vice-president, has been touted as a likely successor to Mugabe. Mujuru's candidacy for the presidency was strengthened by the backing of her husband, Solomon Mujuru, the former head of the Zimbabwean army, but his death in mysterious circumstances in August 2011 has reduced her chances.[155] In December 2014, ten years after taking office, Joice Mujuru was accused of wanting to assassinate Mugabe to take office. These accusations were made by Grace Mugabe, Mugabe's young wife and her supporters who then included Christopher Mutsvangwa and youth members of ZANU PF. Mujuru was subsequently dismissed from the party together with several other high ranking ZANU PF officials including Didymus Mutasa, Nicholas Goche and Rugare Gumbo. Mugabe attacked Mujuru and her team strongly. the team went on to form People First party to challenge Mugabe.

In October 2006, a report prepared by Zimbabwe's Ministry of Economic Development acknowledged the lack of co-ordination among critical government departments in Zimbabwe and the overall lack of commitment to end the crisis. The report implied that the infighting in Zanu-PF over Mugabe's successor was also hurting policy formulation and consistency in implementation.[156]

In late 2006, a plan was presented to postpone the next presidential election until 2010, at the same time as the next parliamentary election, thereby extending Mugabe's term by two years. It was said that holding the two elections together would be a cost-saving measure,[157] but the plan was not approved: there were reportedly objections from some in ZANU-PF to the idea.

In March 2007, Mugabe said that he thought that the feeling was in favour of holding the two elections together in 2008 instead of 2010. He also said that he would be willing to run for re-election again if the party wanted him to do so.[158] Other leaders in southern Africa were rumoured to be less warm on the idea of extending his term to 2010.

On 30 March 2007, it was announced that the ZANU-PF central committee had chosen Mugabe as the party's candidate for another term in 2008, that presidential terms would be shortened to five years, and that the parliamentary election would also be held in 2008.[159] Mugabe was chosen by acclamation as the party's presidential candidate for 2008 by ZANU-PF delegates at a party conference on 13 December 2007.[160]

At Zanu-PF's tenth annual conference in Bindura in December 2008, Mugabe spoke of his determination not to follow US president George W. Bush to his "political death"[161] and urged the party to ready itself for new polls. He also took the opportunity once more to cite Britain as the source of Zimbabwe's woes.

At independence celebrations in Ghana in March 2007, South African President Thabo Mbeki was rumoured to have met with Mugabe in private and told him that "he was determined that South Africa's hosting of the Football World Cup in 2010 should not be disrupted by controversial presidential elections in Zimbabwe".[162]

In September 2010 speculation began that Mugabe was dying of cancer.[163][164][165] It is rumoured that his choice of successor would be Simba Makoni.[166] These rumours were enhanced later the same month when WikiLeaks reported that Mugabe's close friend, Gideon Gono, had revealed that Mugabe had prostate cancer that would likely kill him by 2013.[167][168] This speculation resurfaced in May 2014, when Mugabe was seen visiting a hospital with a well-known cancer clinic.[169]

Reports began to circulate in print and broadcast media over the Easter weekend 2012 that Mugabe had been flown by private jet to a hospital in Singapore and had agreed to transfer presidential power to defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.[170] Reports that Mugabe was seriously ill were denied by the Zimbabwe government which described the visit to Singapore as being related to his daughter's education at a Hong Kong university.[171]

In February 2014, Mugabe's aides reported that he had undergone a cataract operation in Singapore. Upon return, he celebrated his 90th birthday in a football stadium in Marondera and addressed his supporters saying "I am made to feel youthful and as energetic as a boy of nine".[172]

In 2014, speculation began that Mugabe's wife will succeed him in case of the event that he would die while in office.[173][174]

In 2015, Mugabe attempted to censor photographs of him losing his balance in public.[175] In November that same year, he announced of his intention to run for re-election in 2018, at the age of 94, and has been accepted as the ZANU-PF candidate.[176] In February 2016, Mugabe said he had no plans for retirement and would remain in power "until God says 'come'".[177]

SADC-facilitated government power-sharing agreement

On 11 September 2008, at the end of the fourth day of negotiations, South African President and mediator to Zimbabwe, Thabo Mbeki, announced in Harare that Robert Mugabe of Zanu-PF, Professor Arthur Mutambara and Morgan Tsvangirai (both of MDC) finally signed the power-sharing agreement – "memorandum of understanding."[178] Mbeki stated: "An agreement has been reached on all items on the agenda ... all of them [ Mugabe, Tsvangirai, Mutambara] endorsed the document tonight, and signed it. The formal signing will be done on Monday 10 am. The document will be released then. The ceremony will be attended by SADC and other African regional and continental leaders. The leaders will spend the next few days constituting the inclusive government to be announced on Monday. The leaders will work very hard to mobilise support for the people to recover. We hope the world will assist so that this political agreement succeeds." In the signed historic power deal, Mugabe, on 11 September 2008 agreed to surrender day-to-day control of the government and the deal is also expected to result in a de facto amnesty for the military and Zanu-PF party leaders. Opposition sources said "Tsvangirai will become prime minister at the head of a council of ministers, the principal organ of government, drawn from his Movement for Democratic Change and the president's Zanu-PF party; and Mugabe will remain president and continue to chair a cabinet that will be a largely consultative body, and the real power will lie with Tsvangirai.[179][180][181]

South Africa's Business Day reported, however, that Mugabe was refusing to sign a deal which would curtail his presidential powers.[182] New York Times said Nelson Chamisa, a spokesman for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, announced: “This is an inclusive government. The executive power would be shared by the president, the prime minister and the cabinet. Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara have still not decided how to divide the ministries. But Jendayi E. Frazer, the American assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said: “We don’t know what’s on the table, and it’s hard to rally for an agreement when no one knows the details or even the broad outlines”[183]

On 15 September 2008, the leaders of the 14-member SADC witnessed the signing of the power-sharing agreement, brokered by South African leader Thabo Mbeki. With symbolic handshake and warm smiles at the Rainbow Towers hotel in Harare, Mugabe, Mutambara and Tsvangirai signed the deal to end the violent political crisis. As provided, Robert Mugabe will be recognised as president, Morgan Tsvangirai will become prime minister,[184] the MDC will control the police, Mugabe's Zanu (PF) will command the Army, and Arthur Mutambara becomes deputy prime minister.[185][186]

Violence, however, did not entirely subside with the power-sharing agreement. As the New York Times reported, Mugabe's top lieutenants started "trying to force the political opposition into granting them amnesty for their past crimes by abducting, detaining and torturing opposition officials and activists." Dozens of members of the opposition and human rights activists have been abducted and tortured in the months since October 2008, including Roy Bennett, the opposition's third-highest-ranking official and Tsvangirai's nominee for deputy agriculture minister (arrested just two days after Tsvangirai was sworn in as prime minister on 11 February 2009) and Chris Dhlamini, the opposition's director of security.[187]

Honours and revocations

In 1994, Mugabe was appointed an honorary Knight Grand Cross in the Order of the Bath by Queen Elizabeth II.[188] This entitled him to use the postnominal letters GCB, but not to use the title "Sir." In the United Kingdom, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee called for the removal of this honour in 2003, and on 25 June 2008, the Queen cancelled and annulled the honorary knighthood after advice from the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom. "This action has been taken as a mark of revulsion at the abuse of human rights and abject disregard for the democratic process in Zimbabwe over which President Mugabe has presided."[189]

Mugabe holds several honorary degrees and doctorates from international universities, awarded to him in the 1980s; at least three of these have since been revoked. In June 2007, he became the first international figure ever to be stripped of an honorary degree by a British university, when the University of Edinburgh withdrew the degree awarded to him in 1984.[190] On 12 June 2008, the University of Massachusetts Amherst Board of Trustees voted to revoke the law degree awarded to Mugabe in 1986; this is the first time one of its honorary degrees has been revoked.[191] Similarly, on 12 September 2008, Michigan State University revoked an honorary law degree that it awarded Mugabe in 1990.[192] He has been appointed as a UN "leader of Tourism".[193]

Personal life

Mugabe's first wife, First Lady Sally Hayfron, in 1983

His first wife, First Lady Sally Hayfron, died in 1992 from a chronic kidney ailment.[194] Their only son, Michael Nhamodzenyika Mugabe, born 27 September 1963, died on 26 December 1966 from cerebral malaria in Ghana where Sally was working while Mugabe was in prison. Sally Mugabe was a trained teacher who asserted her position as an independent political activist and campaigner.[195] She was seen as Mugabe's closest friend and adviser, and some critics suggest that Mugabe began to misrule Zimbabwe after her death.[8]

While married to Hayfron, Mugabe began an extra-marital affair with his secretary, Grace Marufu, who was 41 years his junior. Grace first became pregnant by Mugabe while both were still married (Grace being married to Stanley Goreraza, whom she subsequently divorced). The couple went on to have a second child.[196][197]

Following the death of Sally Hayfron, Mugabe was free to marry Grace which he did on 17 August 1996 in a Roman Catholic wedding Mass at Kutama College; a Catholic mission school he had previously attended. The wedding was presided over by the Archbishop of Harara, Patrick Fani Chakaipa. Nelson Mandela and Mugabe's two children by Grace were among the guests. Robert Mugabe has three children (one girl and two boys): Bona Mugabe, Robert Peter Mugabe Jr. and Chatunga Bellarmine Mugabe; and one stepson with Grace Mugabe, his second wife: Russell Goreraza.

As First Lady of Zimbabwe, Grace has been the subject of criticism for her lifestyle. Her sometimes lavish international shopping sprees have led to the nickname "Gucci Grace".[198] When she was included in the 2002 EU travel sanctions on her husband, one EU parliamentarian was quoted as saying that the ban "will stop Grace Mugabe going on her shopping trips in the face of catastrophic poverty blighting the people of Zimbabwe".[199]

See also


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